Posted by: healingtheworkplace | January 24, 2009

More About Friendships at Work

Hi, last week I wrote about friendships at work. I should probably be writing about the impact of all the layoffs that are happening due to the economic meltdown…but not today.

In last Saturday’s Vancouver Sun, Shannon Proudfoot wrote about how face-to-face friendships are in decline. She cited Statistics Canada and a 2006 study from Duke University and the U of Arizona.

Here is a startling fact:

the number of people who have no one with whom they can discuss important matters nearly doubled between 1984 and 2004.

The sad thing about layoffs (getting back to that subject) is that people lose touch with the friends that they have made at work.

Perhaps it depends on how and why you are “let go”. If you are layed off due to financial reasons that weren’t your doing it may be easier to stay in touch with people that you work with.

So, our “friendship networks” are shrinking. People are working longer hours or working two jobs and spending more time commuting. People are also spending more time with their families.

The one place where adults typically develop friendships is in the workplace.

Do organization encourage friendships to develop? There is a lot of talk (in HR circles) about employee engagement and about how “engaged” employees are more productive, which I suppose translates into more profit or reduced costs.  

Most friendships develop without the help of the organization but there are things that leaders and HR folk can do to make it easier:

  • be aware of the organization’s “climate” and how it helps or hinders the development of friendships.
  • have clearly stated organizational values and hire people who have similar values
  • recognize the diversity of the organization’s workforce and help employees learn about what makes them different (culture, race, religion, gender, age, education, etc. etc.)
  • focus on community and team building
  • recognize that interpersonal conflict is normal and help people to learn how to deal with conflict at work
  • provide opportunities for celebrations–great for bringing people together on a social basis

Having at least one or two close friends to confide in is good for your health. Having friendships at work makes work more satisfying and interesting.

Bye for now!




  1. Lesley,

    Great post!

    After people have been laid off, it’s more important than ever for them to maintain those business friendships. Partially because those connections can help them to stay connected and keep their spirits up…and because those connections can lead to work opportunities, recommendations, referrals, etc., etc.

    Here are a few tips I thought of for doing this:
    -People who survive downsizing often feel really guilty. Have compassion for friends who didn’t get the pink slip. It’s not their fault and it’s hard on them too. Reassure them that you aren’t resentful.
    – Do the personal work to make sure that when you tell them you aren’t resentful, it’s the truth!!
    – Be the one to create an alumni list. The act of reaching out and organizing this way of staying in touch is a powerful and positive way of being of service which in turn helps people remember and appreciate you.

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